Online scammers never sleep and it looks like that’s the case for the 2015 tax season as well. Last night local news station KSL 5 did a report about a phishing email that has been going around claiming to be from the IRS and trying to get a hold of people’s personal information with promises of “unclaimed tax money” or “hundreds of dollars in additional tax returns.” The promise of free money has already been enough to convince some victims to fall for this phishing scam.
These online scammers seem to be pros at catching people in a moment of weakness and convincing them to give up just enough information to leave themselves susceptible. In this case they’re timing their email just as people have started filing their tax returns and have made their email look just trustworthy enough to bait victims into clicking on the perilous link in the email.
With phishing emails, timing is everything. These online scammers know that it’s the time of year when people are filing their taxes and anxiously awaiting their tax refunds so they’ve changed their tactics to try to capitalize and take advantage of those that would be open to their message.
Here’s how this latest scam works:
1. Scammers send out a phishing email.
The email that has been circulating in recent days says something to the effect of, “We’ve determined that you are eligible for a tax refund under section 501(c)17 of the internal revenue code.” The hope of these scammers is to build enough hope, and trust to get people to take their email seriously.
2. They convince you to click on a link in the email.
Once they’ve built up trust, their whole goal is to get you to click on a link they’ve provided in the email. Sometimes links in these phishing emails will take you to a website that is made to look like an official IRS website. Once on these websites you’ll be asked for additional personal information. This tactic has been used for years because these scammers like to piggyback off the trust and credibility of the IRS. By entering your information you’ll be giving these criminals just enough information to possibly steal your identity.
In the latest case of phishing though, the scammers haven’t even tried that hard because once the victim clicked the link in the email it took them to a shady online gambling site and a virus started downloading immediately. Once this virus has downloaded, these hackers now have access to your computer.
3. Take control of your computer.
Once the virus has started downloading to your computer, it takes control of everything and disables your ability to move the mouse and shut off the computer via the start menu. The victim in this article was smart and turned his computer off manually once he saw that he lost control.
If you find yourself in this situation it’s best to disconnect your computer from the internet completely. At that point you can either start your computer up yourself and assess the damages (while still disconnected from the internet) or you can take your computer to a local computer repair technician where they can scan your computer for viruses, trojans, malware and any other programs that could be skimming information from your computer.
Remember to it’s critical to leave your computer unplugged from the internet once your computer is infected because if you’re connected to the internet the hackers can do any number of things including skim personal information and even use your computer to attack other computers.
- The IRS Never Sends emails, texts or tweets about a refund out of the blue.
- Make sure any email you received ends in an official @irs.gov
- Don’t click on any links. As with this case, once the link in the email was click, it was too late.
If the email looks official, don’t click on any links or do anything further. Call or visit your local IRS branch in person.
Consider hiring a tax professional. Hiring a tax professional like those at Check City will add an extra layer of protection. Check City takes care of all the filing and can either have your return direct deposited to your account, get you a Check or we even offer tax refund anticipation loans so that you can get your money quicker.
If you know of any other tax return scams that our readers should be aware of, please leave a comment below!